The one quote that seems to best encapsulate Jeff Sessions’ position on medical cannabis is, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” It has been clear from previous statements that Sessions takes a very strong prohibitionist stance. And since he is the new Attorney General, he could direct the Department of Justice in general and the DEA, in particular, to rigorously prosecute any and all offenses against existing federal law. Even if he did, however, there are certain logistical and political realities that could frustrate those efforts.
The Cole Memo
The first potential obstacle is a document known as the Cole Memo, written in 2013, which lays out the DOJ’s position of that time. Basically, if a medical marijuana dispensary was not selling to kids or involved in organized crime, and it was adhering to state laws, then the DOJ was not going to be filing any charges.
From a procedural standpoint, there’s nothing to stop Sessions from chucking the Cole Memo in the trash. From a political standpoint, there’s a distinct risk that doing so could cause one or several states where MMJ is legal to file suit against the federal government. With more than half the states in the country having legalized MMJ, such a lawsuit could potentially damage federal jurisdiction, particularly if multiple states filed suit.
Money to be Made
This leads to a second point: the states are making money with the adoption of legalized MMJ. While President Trump may have promised the return of manufacturing jobs, only the very credulous believe those jobs will return anytime in the immediate future.
State legislatures are factoring in the tax revenue from medical marijuana in every current state budget, and if that money suddenly disappears, the shortfalls will not be made up quickly. With the attending loss of services due to budget cuts, a great deal of discontent will be created, which will create pressure on the states to do something about it.
Which leads to the third point: Assuming Sessions insists on the rigorous application of marijuana laws, the DEA currently does not have the logistical capacity to bust everybody who’s ever worked in a dispensary, nor is there enough prison capacity to hold them all.
If, for example, everybody involved with medical marijuana in Arizona suddenly became a target for DEA agents, those agents would be entering a state that had just lost a bunch of jobs, a lot of tax revenue, multiple scrapped public services and infrastructure projects and a lot of very unhappy citizens, all because the DOJ and DEA decided on a zero-tolerance policy.
At Arizona Organix, we understand that there’s no indication that Jeff Sessions is any great friend to the MMJ industry or community. We hope that, as Attorney General, he puts previous prejudices aside and reconsiders his stance on marijuana as the move toward national legalization continues to grow.